Clinton and Barak Discuss Rich Pardon in a Transcript
Neil A. Lewis - NY Times - August 21, 2001
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 The Republican chairman of a House committee today released transcripts of telephone conversations that President Bill Clinton held in his final days in office with Ehud Barak, then the prime minister of Israel, about Marc Rich, a fugitive commodities trader.
The transcripts demonstrate that while both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Barak wanted Mr. Rich to receive a pardon, Mr. Clinton was aware that the matter was highly sensitive and would probably generate controversy.
Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican and persistent critic of Mr. Clinton, released the three transcripts along with a letter sent to Mr. Barak asking if he knew anything more about Mr. Clinton's motives in granting the pardon on Jan. 20, just hours before his term as president ended.
The pardon was one of 140 granted by Mr. Clinton in his last day in office. The pardons granted to Mr. Rich and his partner, Pincus Green, attracted the greatest attention because both men were fugitives from justice, fleeing the United States in 1983 and settling in Switzerland to avoid facing charges of tax evasion, racketeering and fraud.
Mr. Burton and the Government Reform Committee, which he heads, have been looking into whether the pardon was granted in exchange for donations from Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise Rich, and others to Mr. Clinton's presidential library project in Arkansas. The transcripts released today do not appear to shed any light on Mr. Clinton's motivations.
The transcripts were made by staff aides in the White House situation room and obtained by Mr. Burton's committee. Their existence was first reported by Newsweek.
In the first conversation, on Dec. 11, 2000, Mr. Barak introduced the issue of a pardon for Mr. Rich, apparently at the end of a conversation.
"One last remark," the transcript quotes Mr. Barak as saying. "There is an American Jewish businessman living in Switzerland and makes a lot of philanthropic contributions to Israeli institutions and activities and education." Mr. Barak said that he understood that Mr. Rich had "violated certain rules of the game in the United States" and that he would appreciate Mr. Clinton's giving consideration to a pardon for Mr. Rich.
Mr. Clinton responded: "I know about that case because I know his ex-wife. If your ex-wife wants to help you, that's good."
In a subsequent conversation, on Jan. 8, 2001, Mr. Barak renewed his request, according to the White House transcript. Mr. Clinton responded that he was working on the matter, which he called a "bizarre" case, and added, "It's best that we not say much about that."
In the third transcribed conversation, it is unclear who raised the issue, but Mr. Clinton is quoted as saying: "Here's the problem with Rich. There is almost no precedent in American history." Mr. Clinton then went on to describe how Mr. Rich fled the country rather than face indictment and concluded: "The question is not whether he should get it or not but whether he should get it without coming back here. That's the dilemma I'm working through."
Mr. Clinton has steadfastly insisted that he decided to grant the Rich pardon on the merits and that his decision had nothing to do with donations made or promised to his library.
The federal prosecutor in New York, Mary Jo White, is investigating whether any laws were broken in connection with Mr. Clinton's final flurry of pardons.
If the name of Jonathan Pollard had been mentioned in these trancripts, the news media would not have missed the opportunity to point it out. There are no Pollard transcripts because the Government of Israel, aided by the American Jewish leaders and the Israeli social elite, sold out Pollard for Rich. There is no evidence that former PM Barak or the Jewish leaders made any effort to seek relief for incarcerated Israeli agent, Jonathan Pollard, as the Government of Israel has claimed. The current Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, continues the policy of betrayal and abandonment of an agent.